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Opening the door on refrigerator energy consumption: quantifying the key drivers in the home


There is little concrete understanding of the energy consumption of refrigerating appliances during normal use or the main influences on their energy consumption. To date, no widely accepted method to disaggregate measured energy consumption measured in the home into its key components has been demonstrated. This paper examines the main external factors that impact on the energy consumption of existing refrigerating appliances in the home and how they respond to changing conditions, namely: room air temperature, defrosting behaviour and user interactions. Analysis of field data from 235 homes in Australia demonstrates that room air temperature is by far the largest factor accounting for typically around 75% of total energy consumption. Where present, energy used for defrosting is relatively small at around 10%, but this does vary by household and the type of defrost controller. User interactions typically account for 15% of total energy consumed by main household refrigerating appliances, but this varies from a few percent to as much as 45% in large households. The method set out in this paper provides a basis for more in depth analysis and a better understanding of energy consumption of household refrigerators in different regions.

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  1. By convention, compressor cycles are usually defined from compressor on until the subsequent compressor on. Defrost heater cycles are normally defined from the defrost heater on until the subsequent compressor on.


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The cooperation and assistance of the 290 participating households for this research are gratefully acknowledged. The authors gratefully acknowledge the supply of field measurements for 39 appliances by Sustainability Victoria for the purpose of research and development work at the University of Melbourne. This research has been conducted within the Department of Infrastructure Engineering at the University of Melbourne, Australia and part of this research is included in the PhD thesis of Lloyd Harrington at the University of Melbourne, which has been supported by the Australian Government Research Training Program Scholarship.

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Correspondence to Lu Aye.

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Harrington, L., Aye, L. & Fuller, R.J. Opening the door on refrigerator energy consumption: quantifying the key drivers in the home. Energy Efficiency 11, 1519–1539 (2018).

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  • Household refrigeration
  • User interactions
  • Defrosting energy
  • Room air temperature response